ILLEGAL abortions are a booming business in Soweto. Pills used to induce labour are being sold to ignorant and desperate women as abortion pills.
Depending on how far the pregnancy is, the abortion will set you back between R200 and R750.
Sowetan bought the cytotec pills - better known as misoprostol - from a woman who identified herself as Lulu. We paid R400 for five pills. Reporter Nkosi, who is seven months pregnant, posed as the client.
But by yesterday, R750 was the asking price when we phoned to make an appointment for another "client" who is six months pregnant.
When we asked Lulu why the price had almost doubled in five days, she said it was because "it's the festive season and things go up".
Last Wednesday, we honoured our appointment with Lulu to meet at the Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital taxi rank just after lunch.
She approached us. Dressed in a simple white T-shirt and a grey skirt, the woman in her early 30s was friendly and chatty. Before handing over the ulcer pills, she explained how they worked.
"You should avoid coffee and fizzy drinks because they interfere with the pills," Lulu told Nkosi. "You will feel some pain on the onset of the labour.
"You might also bleed for two or three days after the abortion," she said
Asked if the pills were safe for Nkosi, Lulu said: "We have never had problems with them.
"Women as far as eight months pregnant have used them and none of them have ever complained.
"I can assure you they work. I have used them before," Lulu told us.
Lulu said business was going well for her and her partners at Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital.
"Business is good. I have even left work because I make more money than I used to get where I worked. I was introduced to this business by Doctor West who operates an abortion clinic in Kempton Park Square. I had gone to him seeking his services when I was four months pregnant. I used the pills and they worked," she said.
"Do not be afraid. If you encounter any problems do not hesitate to call me. I will give you another set of pills at no extra charge," Lulu said.
She told Nkosi to insert the four cytotec pills into her vagina and place one under her tongue before eating anything in the morning.
"You will feel some pain after three hours. There will be some bleeding but do not worry, it will stop. You will then come back and I will give you another pill which will clean your womb."
Asked what to do with the baby afterwards Lulu calmly looked Nkosi in the eye and said: "You will throw away the foetus."
As we stood there with Lulu, her "business" partner arrived. She wanted more stock because she had run out. Lulu gave her a bagful and she took a handful. A few metres away stood another heavily pregnant woman anxiously waiting to be helped.
She also assured Nkosi that she was making a good decision. "Nothing will happen to you, the pills are safe.
"The only people who usually experience problems are those in early stages. They tend to bleed excessively and we advise them to go to clinics if that happens."
Cytotec can only be bought at a chemist with a doctor's prescription. According to the Medical Control Council, which regulates medicine dispensing in South Africa, it is a criminal offence to be in possession of it.
Some are stolen from hospitals.
Three days before Sowetan bought the pills, we approached the police to arrange a bust. But despite promises to arrange someone who worked in the area, nothing was done and we eventually decided to go it alone.